By Johannes Marisa
COVID-19 has continued to ravage the world with at least 4,32 million people succumbing to the virus since its outbreak in Wuhan province of China in 2019. Africa has lost at least 180 000 people, but that number is far from the truth as many countries do not avail their statistics to the World Health Organisation. It is absurd that there are countries that record zero cases and zero new deaths from COVID-19 yet their neighbours are being bombarded and depredated to the bone. Nations should learn to report their cases for strategic planning purposes.
Zimbabwe has done well in terms of COVID-19 management and control with public health measures and restrictions working to mitigate against the spread of the virus. Public gatherings have been cited as fuelling transmission, so the banning of weddings, church gatherings and soccer matches have helped in the containment of the virus. We are in a safe position today because of following these public health measures.
Everyone knows that Africa is a poor continent with poor health infrastructure, demotivated health workforce which endures a poor working environment. However, mortality and morbidity have not been as high as in the developed world that boasts advanced clinical technology, state-of-the-art equipment including sophisticated ventilation, drugs and renowned doctors and researchers.
COVID-19 will be with us for some time. We are already at the end of the third wave today but we are facing a fourth wave before the end of the year with threats of more serious attacks ahead. The reality is that the rate of mutation of the virus is too much as United Kingdom has witnessed Alpha variant, South Africa Beta variant, Gamma in Brazil, Lambda in Peru and Delta in India.
These mutants are a threat to humanity and for sure will cause a lot of affliction as they have a great potential to overwhelm the immune system or even the available vaccines.
It is sad that COVID-19 is attacking some patients for the second time or even the third time, making it a very obnoxious pathogen that evades the immune system in no time.
The behaviour of the virus, therefore, calls for all of us to realise the following:
- That there is no heroism in lifting public health measures like masking up, social distancing like what the United States of America and United Kingdom did.
That is a recipe for disaster and will culminate in unnecessary deaths.
The average number of new coronavirus cases in the USA has increased nine-fold since the beginning of July and hospitalisation was at its highest since February.
- This is the time to up-scale vaccination in our country and it is imperative that the processes are expedited in order to cover as many people as possible.
It should be remembered that vaccination which is haphazard and sporadic can result in flare ups with possibilities of creating more variants.
Inasmuch as people will get vaccinated, the fact that there are vaccination gaps, in terms of the time between the first and second jab, it may allow for mutations to take place with resultant complicated scenarios.
All this will surely keep COVID-19 in circulation for a long time and I do not see the virus disappearing in the near future. Africa is behind in terms of vaccination with only about 24 million people having been fully vaccinated or just 1,7% of the entire population.
This is an insignificant fraction if we are dreaming of achieving herd immunity.
This means there is going to be misery among many of us in poor countries as the virus will continue to attack unabated. More sicknesses, usage of resources and deaths lie ahead of us. COVID-19 is real.
- With the fading of the third wave in our country, some notable suggestions like early opening of schools in the meantime should be considered as the fourth wave is anticipated at the end of the year.
Schools can be opened a few days from now since incidence is on a downward trend to allow our youngsters to access some education this year.
We can always close the schools if new cases increase but I feel this is the time to open schools.
The virus will linger among us for some time, so we may need to start adapting to its virulence or threats.
- People should know that complacency, defiance, indiscipline, bad behaviour are contributors to COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. Please follow medical guidelines when you are afflicted by COVID-19.
Continuous steaming without intermittent medical advice is a recipe for disaster if what we observed during the third wave is anything to go by.
- Spread the word of vaccination wherever you are. The vaccination centre is next to you.
Johannes Marisa is president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe. He writes here in his personal capacity.